A/N This first chapter is dense, I'll own that. Please read and give the next couple of chapters a chance.
The first time he remembered seeing her, she was picking up rocks. They had just pulled into the Greene farm, and there she was collecting rocks in a wheelbarrow in those ridiculous short pants. He would have missed her altogether, if she hadn't been standing next to Shane who had buzzed his hair and was wearing equally ridiculous huge overalls. Something about the combination of those pants and the rocks stuck in his mind.
He hadn't thought much about her then. She was just part of the group at the farm. And he had other things to do. Later, during Otis's memorial service, he noticed her again as she put a rock on Otis's memorial. Her hair gathered around her head like a shiny, gold halo, still wearing those same ridiculous pants. Hershel read some scripture. Then as Shane told some story about how Otis died, Beth caught his eye as she stood next to Patricia and Maggie. He could see in her expression that she didn't believe Shane any more than he did. So, she was smart. She was observant, she heard the inconsistencies. And she was discreet. She didn't out Shane as a liar, at the memorial, in front of everybody. It was an interesting bit of information and he tucked it away for further consideration.
As long as he could remember, he had been on the outside. Just because the world changed, the people in it hadn't. Every day he saw their faces. They didn't have to say anything. Daryl knew what they thought of him. Hillbilly. Redneck. White trash. If the world hadn't changed they would never have welcomed him into their group. He had always been on the outside. And he still was.
He may be white trash, but he wasn't dumb. You couldn't, wouldn't survive in this world if you were dumb. He paid attention to details. That was how he knew that you had to hit the brain to kill walkers. He paid attention to what was going on around him, where the people around him were, what they were doing.. And he could read their faces, their eyes, their breathing. Funny how people are so quick to watch what they say, but their faces give them away. Time after time. That's how he knew what they thought of him. Not all of them, but enough.
Looking back, Beth smiled as she remembered the first time she saw him. He was hard to miss on that big, noisy motorcycle. As the rest of the Rick's Atlanta group pulled into their driveway, he was leading the way. Followed by a small green car and an old RV. Then as the Atlanta group spilled out of their vehicles and were joined by those who were in the house, everyone seemed to be hugging and laughing and greeting each other. Sharing news of Carl, T-Dog, and the hunt for the little girl. Everyone except for Daryl. He was sort of standing back, watching, as if he really wasn't part of the group. And, he was right, he wasn't. But he didn't miss anything. She could tell.
Then, at Otis's memorial service, she couldn't help watching his face. There was intensity in his expression that the others lacked. An intensity that was at once fascinating and a little frightening. It wasn't obvious, but she could see it in his eyes. Standing there on the end, across from her. Listening as Shane told his story. Suddenly, the intensity, it made sense. He knew. She knew things had not happened the way Shane was describing them. She knew it, and now she knew he did too.
The service over, it was time to start looking for Sophia. As Maggie, the older Greene girl, spread a map across the hood of the car, Daryl raked his eyes over her, as if seeing her for the first time. Where the younger girl had an air of innocence with her golden halo of hair and ridiculous pants, Maggie was the opposite. Maggie radiated sex. Even in the heat of the day, standing next to her father, she positively smoldered. After a quick discussion of who could and couldn't search that day, Maggie offered to go to the pharmacy. And Rick volunteered Glenn to go with her. With one last look at Maggie, Daryl smiled to himself and thought, good luck to you, Glenn. Hope you can keep up.
As he was heading out to look for the little girl, Beth watched him from the porch. and overheard his conversation with Rick.
"Daryl, you okay on your own?"
"I'm better on my own."
"Hey. We got a base. We can get this search properly organized now."
"You got a point or are we just chattin'"
"My point is it lets you off the hook. You don't owe us anything."
"My other plans fell through."
He was rough looking, like he had had a hard life. And his voice was abrasive. If she had met him out on the road, she would have been afraid of him. And truth be told, even standing there on her porch watching and listening to him from a distance, she felt a little uncomfortable. Talking to Rick, he sounded angry, but she was pretty sure that was just a defensive move. From someone who already felt like any outsider, to reject the group before they could reject him.
It's a funny thing about power. People who have power sometimes aren't aware they have it. It's just a part of their life. And using it is as natural as breathing. Rick had power. He simply assumed he was the leader, and everyone else fell in line. Well, everyone except Shane, who kept circling around Lori like she was in heat. Subtly challenging Rick for control. Unaware that everyone, except possibly Rick, was fully aware of what he was doing.
On the other side, people without power, or people who are further down on the power scale – is there such a thing as a power scale? – people without power or as much power are acutely aware of that fact. Watching the interaction between Daryl and Rick, it was clear to Beth that Daryl didn't feel he had much power in that relationship. Rick was busy being the leader, because that's what Rick was. And leaders lead. Rick seemed to be a straight up kind of man, with no deceit or attempt at manipulation in his choices or decisions. And as leader, he was giving Daryl options, he was trying to be nice saying 'You don't have to go out and search for the little girl on your own if you don't want to.'
Unfortunately, what Daryl heard was, 'You don't have to bother, because you're really not part of us. You're not part of the group.' Because of his own brokenness and feeling of powerlessness as an outsider, he was throwing up walls. Protecting himself. He couldn't hear that Rick was just being nice. Even now she smiled as she remembered his comment, "My other plans fell through." She knew he wanted to be a part of that group. She could see the pull towards these people in his eyes. He was already feeling a connection to them. Even as he tried to back away and protect himself from feeling it.
For Beth, the rest of the day was one of chores and helping her father with Carl. One activity seamlessly bleeding into the next. But, her internal conversation kept going back to Otis' service and what she had witnessed from the porch. As rough as he appeared, he was the most interesting person of the group. And she tried to think of an excuse to talk to him. When he finally returned from his search, she watched from the porch as he took a Cherokee Rose in to the RV for the little girls mama. For such a rough man, there was tenderness and compassion in his actions and his face. He definitely wanted to be one of them, even if he didn't know it yet. He was getting more interesting all the time.